Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ah! Armando!

Casey Stengel, when he managed the NY Mets in 1962 to the worst season ever in the history of Major League baseball, observed that the Mets would improve when their bad players left the Mets and played for other teams.

Tonight was one of those moments. Armando Benitez is the closer for the San Francisco Giants. Shea Stadium, however, is not a happy place for Armando. Mets fans remember him in Game 1 of the Subway Series. The Mets had the game and all Armando had to do was to pitch one inning against the Yankees. He blew it. Actually Armando had a habit of decompressing in big games for the Mets. They finally dumped him.

Tonight he came in against the Mets with a one run lead. He walked the fastest guy on the Mets, Jose Reyes. He didn't make Reyes steal second, Armando balked. Reyes eventually ended up on third with Carlos Delgado, dangerous power hitter at the plate. Armando figured a way to get Reyes off the base paths. He balked....again. He balked in a run to tie the game. Needless to say, Armando decompressed and threw a juicy fastball to Delgado. Delgado hit it. The ball landed in Yonkers and the Mets won. Every Met fan knew that Armando was going to give up a home run to Delgado. It was a moment of poetic justice.

Casey was right. The Mets have scattered their bad players around the league and are currently in first place.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Jerry Falwell

Jerry Falwell died.

People’s response to this news has been most interesting. Some are grieving the passing of what they see as a great person, some are indifferent, and some have an almost bemused expression.

Like most people Jerry Falwell will leave behind a mixed legacy. He was the founding pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church and was a beloved pastor by all accounts. In interviewing people at Liberty University, the school he founded, he was also beloved. He was above board with his accounting and never really got hooked up in a scandal----which is, in and of itself a legacy, because so many people wanted to find one. I do believe that his faith was sincere. In fairness he was a regular on many shows representing his beliefs----and unlike many people in talk radio he was willing to talk to people who disagreed with him.

I was not a fan. This was a Christian minister who produced a hate movie about Bill Clinton that was filled with fictional events parading as reality.

This was a Christian minister who, in part, blamed 9/11 on the ‘immorality of this country.

This was a Christian minister who made war on Tinky Winky, the purple Teletubbie who Falwell proclaimed was gay. I decided to watch the Teletubbies after that and, trust me, it was PAINFUL!!! The Teletubbies made Barney look like Shakespeare.

Falwell preached a Gospel which pretty much was focused on being anti-gay and anti-abortion. He preached a Gospel on being anti-gay and anti-abortion almost to the exclusion of every other topic. To be blunt, listening to him, he sounded like a bigot. He angered me because he cherry picked Scripture to support his bigotry. I found it and I still find it to be offensive.

He also completely ignored other social issues of huge importance. Hunger, poverty, homelessness and such were not on his agenda. Despite the fact that Jesus spoke more about hunger and poverty than anything else (if you take the time to read an entire Gospel, you’ll notice this!), Falwell believed that these did not rank the importance of speaking on his agenda.

He was often portrayed as kind and generous. Alexandra Pelosi (yes, ‘her’ daughter) did a very benign documentary on Evangelicals and interviewed Falwell----and did not, in any way shape or form, attempt to defame him. Falwell was very happy to speak with her until he found out who her mother was. Then he had her removed from his presence telling Ms. Pelosi what he thought about her mother. (It wasn’t good!)

Frankly, Jerry Falwell preached a message that, to me, distorted so much of Christianity.

But he had his fans and built a legacy. Someone said to me that they hoped Falwell was in hell. Frankly, I hope that he’s in Heaven learning that preaching about the depth of God’s love is what it’s about as opposed to teaching others to hate in the name of God. That’s my hope and that’s my prayer.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Fine Art of Respect

We live in a culture, sadly, that has lost its ability to respect one another.

Al Sharpton makes a rather crass comment about Mitt Romney's religious belief as a Mormon. This appears to be the same Al Sharpton who was offended by Don Imus who made a crass comment about the Rutger's Women's Basketball team. Imus was removed from the radio for his crassness. Rush Limbaugh finds himself amused playing a song entitled, "Barack the Magic Negro," (to the tune of Puff, the Magic Dragon...). I do find something interesting about Rush. Just when I think that he's got the bottom of the barrel scraped clean he finds a new bottom.

Talk radio, TV, politicians, even church people have grown increasingly disrespectful of one another. I do hope that we are able to reverse this trend and learn to treat one another with dignity as opposed to the way we so often do now.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Last night I watched Nightline on ABC. It was a debate on the existence of God. Not a new debate by any stretch of the imagination. On one side were two people who represented what they called Rational Response Squad, Brian Sapient and Kelly. On the other side were Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron. The people from the Rational Response Squad were attempting to prove that God doesn't logically exist whereas Comfort and Cameron were supposed to prove that God exists but they weren't allowed to use the Bible as a resource. As soon as Comfort and Cameron made the foundational claim that God existed because of the 10 Commandments they were in a jam because they used the Bible. For those who don't know it, the 10 Commandments are in Exodus and Deuteronomy.

The biggest problem with this debate, to me, is that there truly was no winner and the people on the show were annoying.

Here are some of the things that bothered me. Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron spoke for a segment of Christianity but completely misrepresented many Christians. They decided to prove that God exists through the creation model. There needs to be a creator. Fine. The problem was, their creator image was a literal reading of Genesis. They argued that there was no such thing as evolution and that Creationism is scientifically valid. This argues a premise that the universe and our world are 6000 years old and not the millions of years scientists claim. Frankly, this argument is a war on reality and actually makes most Christians look like fools. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th Century stated that the Creation accounts of Genesis were symbolic accounts that offered a theological explanation for Creation. In the 13th Century they didn't accept it as science but since 1890 many have. 1890. Creationism, as taught now, is not a part of traditional Christian teaching----it's actually very modern and very revisionist.

Most long term scholars and people who taught me, who were not radical or even pariticularly liberal as many people believe, said that a rational perception is that God is a Creator who created the universe with the potentiality of evolving. Did God create? Yes! But God created a creation that could change and grow and, yes, even evolve. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin who lived from 1881 - 1955 believed that if we don't believe in God's creative and evolving power, we diminish God.

Sapient and Kelly looked a lot smarter than Cameron and Comfort during these exchanges and, frankly, made more sense. Had a more reasonable argument been made about Creation, they would have had to approach their debate from a very different perspective because they would have realized and perhaps learned that there are Christians who are incredibly rational. I was annoyed because the perspective of Christians was greatly diminished not by those who argued with them, but by the very presenters of Christianity. I'm annoyed that ABC even remotely believes that they had a show that even touched the surface.

But Sapient and Kelly, to me, were not very plausible either. Sapient thought that personal name calling, such as calling Cameron a real 'numbnuts' was good debating. Kelly went on a rant that she would prefer to be in hell than to be in a heaven that is ruled by a ego maniacal tyrant such as God. It would have been very nice of them to be able to debate on the grounds of what Christianity actually does teach as opposed to their perceptions of what Christianity teaches.

But life is bizarre. The show ended and I changed the channel and found myself watching Letterman interview Lindsey Lohan. Made me long for Sapient, Kelly, Cameron, and Comfort.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Westboro Baptist Church shows up

Wow. The people from the Westboro Baptist Church showed up in Louisville today. If you don't know anything about the Westboro Baptist Church than you have missed one of the true low points of Christianity in America. Westboro Baptist Church is in Topeka, Kansas and their pastor is Fred Phelps and they spread a message of hate. Real hate.

They operate a couple of websites. www.godhatesfags.com. Another one is www.godhatesamerica.com. These are the people who have been picketing military funerals across the nation.

They believe that the world is filled with sin and is pretty much beyond redemption. They see the war in Iraq and the casualties there, as the wrath of God on his. They celebrate such events as 9/11, Katrina, and Virginia Tech as, ahem, proof that they are correct. They came to Louisville, Kentucky to picket outside some churches.

Now this is where it gets interesting. Their choices of churches is somewhat remarkable. One would think that they would have been picketing some of the more liberal churches, some of the most controversial churches with their social stands. Here is where they chose to protest:

The Cathedral of the Assumption. Actually, the Cathedral of the Assumption, for a Roman Catholic Church is progressive. They are very upfront that they welcome everyone who walks through their doors----and they do. They must abide by Roman Catholic rules which aren't always welcoming, but Assumption is a bit more progressive than the average Roman Catholic Church. But they are a Cathedral in a denomination that is pro-life. The Roman Catholic Church condemns homosexual behavior as sinful. They are anti-capital punishment and pro advocacy for the poor. The RC church doesn't fit all the liberal/conservative rankings, but as a church the Cathedral of the Assumption was an interesting choice.

But the other church they claimed to have gone to was Southeast Christian Church. Southeast is very representative of conservative, evangelical Christianity and is not a hotbed for liberalism. Whether one agrees with Southeast Christian Church or not is not relevent. It seems to be a bizarre church for these people to picket at. Oh, and they they picket they shout at people.

In looking at their website they have some other places they are planning to attend.

They were heading to Lexington today to picket at the University of Kentucky for whatever ills UK is perpetuating on society. (I doubt it's the football team!)

Then they are going to Witchita, Kansas for the funeral of Army Sgt. Alexander J. Funcheon. That same day they plan to picket at Fort Bragg for the memorial service for the 37 Ft. Bragg troops killed since last August.

I heard that the pastor of the Cathedral of the Assumption changed his sermon today to directly address what they people were picketing about----and he received a standing ovation from his congregation. I don't know what took place at Southeast Christian Church, but I suspect that they addressed this also in a way that comforted those hurt and affirmed their ministry.

My great hope and prayer is that more and more people are exposed to the people of Westboro Baptist Church, more and more people will see the devastation of hatred, and learn to embrace the wonderful gift of love.